DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m a video game developer and have been married for over 5 years now. I met my wife when I was in college and, while we have always had a great relationship, I feel we’re very out of sync sexually. I was a virgin when we met, so I started with a lack of experience. Over the years our sexual activity has sort of been painted in to a corner. To explain it in several points:
– We both want the other to be more dominant. I’m driven to please her, but what she wants is for me to tell her what I want, which is for her to tell me what she wants, which is for me to tell her what I want… endless loop. I have tried to be more dominant, but I don’t feel like myself in those moments. It’s also difficult for me to compartmentalize that sort of behavior, and so outside of the bedroom I feel regret for treating my wife disrespectfully. I’m afraid this will only become worse if I take that role farther.
– When I’m aroused the speech center of my brain literally shuts down. She wants me to talk more during the act. I have really tried to improve at this but, while I disparately try to form words, nothing comes out.
– I often try to lead in to sex with a sensual massage, but when all she wants is a massage I feel like a rejected pervert at the end. Sometimes she’ll offer a hand job out of pity, but this feels like I’ve been rejected and inconvenienced her. Because I know that there’s a decent chance I’ll be rejected it makes me not want to be affectionate like this at all.
And so, while we have a very fun and loving relationship, our sex has shut down in a weird stalemate. I’ve tried bringing up the topic, but she sees it as a problem with her not being interested at that moment, rather than a broader problem that’s been getting worse. We’ve tried mixing things up with porn or games or toys, but these added a layer of complication that didn’t work quite right the first time out. I’m willing to retry things and improve, but often she’s very averse to giving things a second chance.
But I’m not trying to put the blame on her. I grew up very socially-awkward and so I’ve often lacked the skills I need to interact with humans, especially those I care about most. I’m out of ideas and I hope you can provide a new perspective to help me think about what I can do to improve the situation. Thanks for your time.
- Probably Overthinking Things
DEAR PROBABLY OVERTHINKING THINGS: You’ve got a couple of issues here but they’re all stemming from the same place: you’re not really communicating and you’re trying to let the sex just happen.
It’s understandable; we’re all taught that sex is supposed to be as spontaneous and improvisational as possible and trying to plan it out is a crime against passion and romance. When we think about trying to schedule sex, we tend to assume this is going to make it feel rote and mechanical; if you have to schedule times to have sex, then that means that you just aren’t as attracted to your partner as when the mood magically strikes out of the clear blue sky and you just have to bang out right then and there.
The problem with this belief is that not only does it make it pretty damn difficult to actually work out issues like “who’s going to dominate whom”, but you’re also causing yourselves a ton of stress when the sex just doesn’t happen… you’re not in the mood or she’s not, your schedules are conflicting, what-have-you.
As a result, there’s not a lot of sexing going on and a lot of frustration and despair happening instead.
So here’s what you need to do:
You need to work all of this out in advance. Now, to emphasize what I said earlier: I realize this seems like the antithesis of a happy sex-life but stick with me.
You’re a programmer who works in video game development; you should be familiar with the value of pre-production and production scheduling. You don’t just start building a game with no idea of where you’re going or what milestones you need to hit by when.
The same thinking applies to sex, especially sex in a long-term relationship.
To start with, the two of you need to sit down at a time when sex is absolutely NOT going to happen and talk about how you’re feeling about your sex life, what exactly it is that the two of you want and how you can satisfy your needs.
This is one of those times when you need to be careful about how you phrase things, especially to avoid making your wife feel as though it’s all her fault and putting her immediately on the defensive; you want to use a lot of “I feel” and “I would like” statements to emphasize where you’re coming from without being accusatory.
You want to keep this at a time when sex isn’t going to be an issue because it can be difficult to have a conversation about sexual issues when you’re trying to actually bang out. Plus, as you said: if you have a problem maintaining an erection and speaking coherently at the same time, you don’t want to mumble and stumble your way through trying to explain what your needs are and why this issue has been upsetting you.
It’s important that you two take turns here. You will want to take this in stages. First, you explain why this is something you need to talk about with her and what it is that you worry will happen by bringing it up (such as her judging you or feeling upset by your explaining why you’re unsatisfied). Then you explain what your needs are and why you feel that they aren’t getting met.
Next, you explain what it is that you need, how you would like to see things work out and how things would improve if you both did this.
And then, once you’ve said your peace, you then say: “…and what about you?” Then let her share her side of things. Be sure to give her the same attention and courtesy that she gives you. Don’t interrupt, don’t interject to “clarify” things, even if you feel that they’re factually wrong. Let her talk about how she feels and then, once she’s finished, ask questions and make sure you’re both on the same page.
Then and only then will you two be ready to start finding the compromises and work-arounds to get your sex life to the place where you want it to be.
And here are some thoughts on just how you can compromise and both of you meet your needs.
You both want the other to take more of a dominant role during sex… fine. You both can. You just have to alternate who’s going to be in charge. Even days, you’re the dom, odd days, she’s the dom, you get the first half of the week, she gets the second, whatever. Figure out a schedule that works for you both and just switch the roles. Even if one of you isn’t necessarily getting what he or she wants that time, the anticipation of what you’re going to do (or be on the receiving end of) next time can be intoxicating.
If you’re worried about not being able to separate being more dominant during sex with your daily lives together, add another layer to it that’s the signal that this is when you’re supposed to be “in charge”. It could be something as simple as a costume piece or background music, but it should be something that isn’t part of your day to day experience. As long as she’s wearing the pearls and the apron and nothing else, you are now the surly husband who’s going to get what he wants from his wife OR ELSE. When the pearls and apron (or what-have-you) are gone… life goes back to normal.
Similarly, she wants you to talk more during sex? Plan it out. Write out a scenario, memorize it, start going through it during sex. Can’t decide what to say? Didn’t have something planned out in time? Keep it simple and obvious: tell her what you’re about to do, tell her what you’re doing and tell her what you did. Short and simple: “Tell me you like it”. “Give me that $BODY_PART” “I’m going to $SEX_ACT you until you scream.” She’s not expecting Oscar Wilde or Thoreau levels of discourse and poetry while you’re having sex. She just wants some passion and intensity.
Now here’s for the part that’s going to seem a little awkward at first.
After you’ve negotiated your issues, you’re going to want to make a schedule for sex – date, time and location – and stick to it, even if one or the other isn’t necessarily feeling it at the time. It can feel weird – after all, you’re treating sex like a scheduled meeting at work – but it puts you into the rhythm (as it were) of sex on a regular basis and it brings a higher-level of importance to actually making the time for it. This will also help with your worries about being rejected when you want to make a move.
Now here’s something you need to understand: you shouldn’t feel like a pervert because you want to have sex; there’s nothing wrong with having a libido and being sexually attracted to your wife. It does sound like the two of you have communication issues – just because you’re trying to lead into sex with a sensual massage doesn’t necessarily mean that she knows that’s where you’re going… and it also doesn’t sound like she’s very good at telling you that she’d rather just have the massage this time before you get too far into it.
Hopefully she isn’t responding to your overtures with “Fine, I’ll jerk you off if that’ll get you out of my hair”; she should be saying “hey, I’m not really in the mood at the moment, but here, let me help you out.” At the same time, you shouldn’t treat the handjob necessarily as a second-rate replacement for sex or a pity-induced orgasm. Part of what makes for a successful sexual relationship – part of what Dan Savage calls GGG or “good, giving and game” means giving your partner a cheerfully helping hand (or mouth, or cleavage, or vibrator) when one or the other of you is in the mood and the other isn’t. You don’t present it as a tiresome obligation akin to scooping the litter-box, you present it as “I care about you and your needs and I want to help you meet them as best I can.”
TL;DR version: Negotiate a way of the two of you meeting your sexual needs, create a sex schedule and keep to it and work on those communication skills.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)